Most days, I would say it's picking up Punkin from school. All of the stress and anxiety of the day disappear when I see his face light up and hear, "Mom!" Maybe it's knowing he's safe and happy. Maybe it's knowing someone has been waiting ALL DAY (I MEAN COULD THIS DAY GET ANY LONGER?) to see my face, to be wrapped in my hug, to hold my hand. Or maybe it's because he wants to eat chips and watch a movie.... Nah.
The cry in the middle of the night IS all about needing mommy, though. I remember a specific night as a baby he cried out and I assumed he would need a bottle or a change or just be awake, fussing for a while. But instead, he heard my voice reassure him and my hand touch his tiny frame and he instantly relaxed and returned to rest. It was one of the most empowering moments of my life. He just needs me. That's it. Those moments, and not the ones where he decides to practice karate in my bed for 3 hours, are beyond words. Beyond peaceful, really.
Much like snuggling after a bath. This is the one time that I can guarantee that he will actually cease moving and allow me to cuddle him for longer than 15 seconds. As soon as that towel hits his shoulders, his legs turn to noodles and his arms -- wrapped around my neck -- turn to steel.
I remember trying to soak up those precious moments as a new mom; desperately painting pictures in my mind -- pictures of his head nestled in the crook of my arm, his cheek squished into my sweater, his long fingers clenching a favorite green fleece blanket.
Now, instead of spending afternoons watching him sleep, I spend afternoons watching him think, moving through problem solving, exploration, and even the occasional play scheme. I watch as he runs to my bedroom to retrieve one sock, back to the couch, to his bedroom to retrieve a second sock, and then back to the couch again to try them on, the larger one of the pair stretched all the way to his thighs. He repeats this process at least 12 times before running off to dress himself in a long-sleeved t-shirt and shorts. He hands me my shoes, "Car." It is a declaration, a respectful command, not a question. "No, Punkin." He cries; I grab him and tickle him until his ears turn red.
It's cliche because it's true: the simple things carry me. The peace that flows alongside the worry and confusion and frustration is a priceless gift from God. It's my favorite part of the day.